Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios lived up to his nickname by rallying from a slow start to clawhammer Miguel Acosta in the 10th round of a vicious firefight at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Rios, 134 1/2, charged Acosta from bell to bell with limited success early on, but he eventually caught up to his frail opponent and scored the kind of stoppage that simultaneously thrills and disturbs.
For four rounds, however, Acosta, also 134 1/2, punished Rios with straight rights, left hooks, an occasional uppercut, and lead lefts to the body. Rios had his moments here and there, but he looked like he was out of his depth early. A couple of left hooks to the body seemed to visibly affect him. It was no surprise when Acosta began to paste Rios with everything but the girl. “Bam Bam” is a poor defensive fighter and punches from all angles hit him like brickbats hurled by an angry street mob.
Acosta, Caracas, Venezuela, landed a crushing right late in the third that brought a goofy smile from Rios. But he would find nothing amusing in the fourth round, when Acosta sat down on his punches a little more and whacked Rios around the ring with cruel precision for nearly three minutes. Rios, perhaps for the first time in a very long time, found himself abandoning his pressure game and backing off. Just before the bell, a stiff combination appeared to shake him, and he trudged back to his corner with a discouraged look on his face. For his part, Acosta returned to his stool looking more than a little winded.
In the fifth round Rios, Oxnard, California, came out at the sound of the bell and redoubled his efforts, digging to the body whenever he could and mixing it up with Acosta along the ropes. But after five rounds Acosta was comfortably ahead on the scorecards. His movement kept Rios off-balance and his right hand appeared laser-guided at times. Still, Acosta, 32, would occasionally lay on the ropes to draw leads from Rios, a dangerous game to play with a puncher, and every now and then his moves seemed to lack purpose. Wasting energy in the ring against a give-and-take fighter who figures to keep the pressure up for as long as he can is an error in judgment.
In addition, Acosta appeared to be throwing change-ups in the early rounds, alternating quick but weak flurries with hard shots here and there. He might have been better off digging in and throwing heat more often. When he did, as in the fourth round, Rios, 24, was staggered by his shots. His biggest mistake, however, was holding his hands too low while exchanging.
Barely half a minute into the sixth round, Rios landed a three-punch combination punctuated by a jab that decked Acosta, who beat the count but looked ragged for the rest of the fight. Over the next round a half, Acosta deked and ducked when against the ropes, countered well in spots, and ran off eye catching combinations, but exchanging punches in close with Rios is drunken wisdom at best. And soon Acosta was tipsy again, when a rampaging Rios floored him with a left in the 8th.
With his legs unsteady for the reminder of the fight, Acosta tried his best to ward off his storming opponent, but Rios is nothing if not relentless. From time to time Acosta would land a combination, but there was little power behind his blows, and Rios walked right through them. Ripping shots from head to body and back again, Rios marched forward with the inexorability of Fate.
Finally, in the 10th round, Acosta opened up too much and for too long, and Rios connected with an overhand right that made Acosta curtsy in the ring. He was badly hurt by the blow. Acosta did not hit the canvas, however, but popped up raggedly again, defenseless against the ropes, where Rios ripped a vicious combination–a right, a left to the chest, and another whiplash right–that landed with sickening force.
Acosta collapsed in his own corner, his right leg pinned beneath him at a strange angle, where one of his seconds dove through the ropes to embrace his fighter, a white towel in his hands and a look of anguish on his face. It was a brutal stoppage and Acosta remained seated on the canvas–as still as a daguerreotype portrait–for a moment. He recovered enough to conduct a post-fight interview with Jim Gray, but Acosta, who slipped to 28-4-2, was later removed from the ring on a stretcher.
With the win, Rios, now 27-0-1, overcame his most dangerous opponent, showed resiliency and heart, thrilled a small crowd and a Showtime television audience, and gets to keep on doing his victory shriek for a little while longer…at least until its echo overwhelms him.